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Home World News Washington Post World News The Japanese leader hopes that the visit to the White House will...

The Japanese leader hopes that the visit to the White House will give him a political boost



TOKYO — It’s been a rough few months for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at home as four ministers resigned, including the justice minister, who made light of his responsibility to approve executions. Kishida’s party is embroiled in a political scandal. His ratings are dropping. Talks about a “post-Kishida” era have already begun.

But abroad, Kishida’s diplomatic profile is rising. And in Washington, he has been praised for his efforts to deepen the US-Japan alliance, including the recent announcement of Japan’s ambitious plans to dramatically increase its defense spending.

On Friday, Kishida will make his first visit to the White House since becoming prime minister more than a year ago.

It will be a chance for Kishida, formerly a long-time secretary of state, to play to one of his key strengths — diplomacy — and show President Biden’s warm embrace of Japan’s new national security strategy before the politically sensitive debate in parliament begins on how to pay for the new defense budget.

“This summit is undoubtedly intended to show appreciation for the work of Japan and Prime Minister Kishida to date and to build on that momentum for 2023,” said US Ambassador to Tokyo Rahm Emanuel. in an interview.

It’s also an opportunity for Biden, analysts say. His performance alongside Kishida would signal to China and North Korea that the alliance between the two countries is deepening and strengthen Kishida’s commitment to his country’s new national security strategy, despite his weak political position, noted Yuki Tatsumi, co-director of the East Asia Program and Director of the Japan Program at the Washington-based Simson Center.

“For Biden, by explicitly endorsing what the Kishida administration has outlined in its national security strategy, the US side also binds Japan to that commitment, making it more difficult for Japan to significantly change that plan,” Tatsumi said.

Wary of China, Japan unveils sweeping new national security strategy

Kishida and Biden are expected to address a range of national and economic security issues as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second year and China’s military threats and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions continue to grow. They will also discuss new areas of cooperation, such as aerospace, and how to work together to counter China’s dominance in the global supply chain.

The United States will be Kishida’s final stop on a week-long tour of key Western partners to lay the groundwork for the Group of Seven summit in May, to be held in his hometown of Hiroshima. During his visits, Kishida discusses opportunities for the world’s major economies to work together on defense, climate, energy, nuclear disarmament and sanctions against Russia – all of which are expected to be key themes for the summit.

“I intend to reaffirm our common understanding of the current situation, including that we are now in a severe security environment, including Russian aggression against Ukraine, and that the global economy also faces the possibility of downside risks,” he said. Kishida said. at a press conference on Sunday.

The meeting between the two leaders comes as the security landscape in the region becomes increasingly complex. Last month, Japan unveiled a massive defense build-up unprecedented in the post-war era as it grapples with the risk of war across the Taiwan Strait to the south.

The invasion of Russia leads to a more assertive foreign policy from Japan

As the United States’ main ally in Asia, Japan plays a key role in advancing the Biden administration’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

Under Kishida, Japan expanded and diversified security partnerships across the region and in Europe, including with Australia, Lithuania and Germany, and stepped up diplomacy with European and Southeast Asian countries.

Japan was the first Asian country to join Western countries in imposing sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, which served as a prelude to Japan of what a Chinese invasion of Taiwan might look like.

Japan now intends to take steps previously unthinkable under its pacifist post-war constitution, such as acquiring “counterattack” capabilities, or the ability to hit enemy bases with long-range missiles and coordinating with the United States in such circumstances.

“Japan is now moving towards having not only a ‘shield’ but also a ‘spear’,” said Kazuhiro Maeshima, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo. “Japan is taking a step away from a defensive alliance. The Japan-US alliance should not only be an alliance maintenance, but should also be used as an alliance projection to prevent China from changing the status quo in the Indo-Pacific region.

Japan’s recent moves to bolster its deterrence are complementary to US efforts in the region, including the national security strategy released by the Biden administration in October, Emanuel said.

Biden takes an aggressive stance towards China during Asia trip

Over the past year, the two leaders have been working to “reduce the distance between the transatlantic and the Indo-Pacific into a single strategic sphere,” said Emanuel, bridging the gap over shared security and economic challenges, especially in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s dominance of the global supply chain.

“It’s probably one of the biggest developments the two leaders have produced,” said Emanuel.

Most of the Japanese public wants more muscular defense capabilities, but disapproves of Kishida’s plan to fund his government’s ambitious plans. Japan plans to increase its defense budget to the NATO standard of 2 percent of gross domestic product, which would make it the third largest in the world. rising inflation rates the country has not seen in three decades. Even some members of his party have objected to his plan.

A poll released this week by Japanese broadcaster NHK found 45 percent in favor and 33 percent against Kishida, while 61 percent of the public opposed tax increases for defense spending.

Their skepticism comes after months of growing frustration with Kishida’s leadership. Public outrage grew after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022 revealed widespread ties between Japanese politicians and the Unification Church, a politically influential religious group. People protested Kishida’s decision to use tax dollars to pay for a state funeral for Abe, a divisive leader. Then followed a series of resignations by scandal-ridden ministers.

So the stakes are high on Friday for Kishida, who is highly regarded in Washington and seems most comfortable in diplomatic environments.

“A lasting security commitment cannot be made without firmly convincing public opinion,” Maeshima said. “Demonstrating the strength of the Japan-US alliance at the summit meeting will win over Japanese domestic public opinion.”

Julia Mio Inuma contributed to this report.

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